Intelligence Community Whistleblowers

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Turns out hearsay can be pretty reliable.

The validity of secondhand information about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine reemerged as an issue at Wednesday’s impeachment hearings. The president’s supporters initially dismissed the whistleblowers’ revelations as unreliable “hearsay.” They are now making the same claim about the State Department diplomats who were first to testify.

This as virtually everything the whistleblower reported has been confirmed by those in the loop or present at the events in question.

That result would line up with the findings of an analysis of two million whistleblower complaints filed at more than 1,000 private companies.  Kyle Welch, a business professor at George Washington University, had just published a study in September using 13-years of  information from a firm  that makes and runs corporate compliance software.  His research, with Stephen Stubben of the University of Utah, is producing much needed data about the nature of whistleblower complaints.

So, when hearsay became an issue in the impeachment investigation, he decided to run some numbers on it.

The surprise: Secondhand “reports are 47.7% more likely than firsthand reports to be substantiated by management, which suggests that management views many secondhand reports as credible.“
Continue Reading Study: Secondhand whistleblower reports are reliable

 John Kostyack is the executive director of the  National Whistleblower Center

A national conversation is underway about whether the President’s actions on the Ukraine matter warrant impeachment – a question on which the National Whistleblower Center does not take a position. However, an equally robust conversation needs to happen on a related question: how to respond to the President’s hostile actions toward the Ukraine whistleblowers.
Continue Reading It’s time for Congress to fulfill its constitutional oversight role and protect whistleblowers

I was punished for telling the truth. You hear that a lot from whistleblowers. Not what they expected for doing the right thing. Some organizations see whistleblowers as disloyal. So, when they fire, harass, demote, dox, or professionally blacklist a worker, supervisors see it as punishment, not retaliation.

So, anonymity is key. The laws protecting whistleblowers from retaliation are strengthened by provisions for anonymity. What do they need to be protected from? Anyone who has ever gotten on the wrong side of a toxic boss or an unfair co-worker has had a taste of it.

Protection tips

The National Whistleblower Center offers a list of whistleblower protection practices to avoid retaliation. The NWC site shares the story of Jane Turner, a 25-year veteran special agent with the FBI who is also the chairwoman of the NWC’s Whistleblower Leadership Council. She led the FBI’s  programs for women and children on North Dakota Indian reservations and reported problems with the program. Turner said the aftermath was the destruction of her career and finances and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Here’s how they describe her case:
Continue Reading Why anonymity? This is what retaliation against whistleblowers looks like

Major news outlets aren’t naming the rumored Ukraine whistleblower despite disclosure of a name on social media and the Real Clear Investigations website.

From The Washington Post. 

The mainstream media’s silence is puzzling to Tom Kuntz, the editor of Real Clear Investigations (RCI), which published its whistleblower investigation last week.

“The silence has been deafening,” he said. “It’s almost like there’s a code of omerta [the Mafia vow of silence] about what media organizations can report. . . . There’s a herd mentality and a reluctance to cut against the grain.”

From the Society of Professional Journalists.

Some Republican’s argue that the name reveals the whistleblower’s bias. Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times said he’s not not convinced his identity is important at this point “…or at least important enough to put him at any risk, or to unmask someone who doesn’t want to be identified…Pretty much everything has now been discussed or confirmed on the record, multiple times, by others in the administration. So I’m not sure I see the point of unmasking someone who wants to remain anonymous.”
Continue Reading Omerta or good journalism? News outlets aren’t sharing whistleblower rumor

11/6 update: Chris Cillizza at CNN comments on Rand Paul’s strategy at a Monday Trump rally,

“What Trump and Paul are trying to do is put the whistleblower at the end of this process. Unless the whistleblower reveals him or herself, how we can trust that anything he or she says is right? We have to know who this person is to judge whether they are some bitter Democrats or loser Never Trumper!

That’s not what a whistleblower is or what they do. Whistleblowers are the start of a process, not the end of it. And they are rarely the centerpiece of the process.”
He gets NWC director John Kostyack to explain how it works.

11/4: The Ukraine scandal whistleblower’s work is done, but the president and his supporters continue to call for him or her to come forward. They say his bias must be exposed. Democrats say he is no longer a key witness; others have confirmed the facts in the whistleblower complaint. Anonymity will protect him or her from certain harassment and retaliation.

Still, some lawmakers and conservative media sites are naming a CIA officer they say is likely the whistleblower. On Wednesday, the conservative news site Real Clear Politics reported that the whistleblower is CIA analyst who worked at the White House – something the New York Times reported to some outcry. Real Clear Politics puts a name to it and offers this confirmation: the name of “a government official fitting that description… has been raised privately in impeachment depositions, according to officials with direct knowledge of the proceedings, as well as in at least one open hearing held by a House committee not involved in the impeachment inquiry.“

The whistleblower’s lawyers won’t confirm or deny. They have offered to have the whistleblower answer written questions from GOP lawmakers under oath.  Most major press outlets are not reporting the name.
Continue Reading Push to unmask whistleblower continues despite confirmation of facts in complaint

FBI whistleblower Michael German writes in today’s Washington Post about flaws in the system designed to protect intelligence community whistleblowers.

The intelligence agencies successfully lobbied for exemptions from whistleblower protections
Continue Reading Giant panda costumes aside, protecting intelligence community whistleblowers is serious business

As EU officials move toward better protection for whistleblowers, they are likely watching how our system is holding up. In April, the EU Parliament passed a much-needed law that would shield whistleblowers from retaliation. It also created “safe channels” to allow them to report breaches of EU law. Today, Transparency International’s released an analysis and recommendations designed to help EU nations adopt “best-practice national laws that will effectively protect whistleblowers and support anti-corruption efforts in their country.”

Like they do here, according to 90 people who should know.

From: An Open Letter to the American People

We are former national security officials who proudly served in a wide array of roles throughout the U.S. Government. We are writing about the Intelligence Community whistleblower’s lawful disclosure, which was recently made public. While the identity of the whistleblower is not publicly known, we do know that he or she is an employee of the U.S. Government. As such, he or she has by law the right—and indeed the responsibility—to make known, through appropriate channels, indications of serious wrongdoing. That is precisely what this whistleblower did; and we applaud the whistleblower not only for living up to that responsibility but also for using precisely the channels made available by federal law for raising such concerns.


Continue Reading Ninety national security experts agree: “A responsible whistleblower makes all Americans safer”

Joe Davidson of the Washington Post contacted three former national security whistleblowers whose stories of “official revenge are a frightful warning to the CIA staffer. Yet all three would do it again, in service to their country.”

One of them is Jane Turner, a 25-year veteran special agent with the FBI. She led the FBI’s  programs for women and children on North Dakota Indian reservations. After reporting problems within the child crime program, Turner was retaliated against.

From the Post

 She fought back. A 2015 Government Accountability Report critical of FBI whistleblower procedures said the Justice Department “ultimately found in her favor in 2013 — over 10 years later.”

“Was the destruction of my career and family worth the excruciating time and money, ostracism and vilification? No,” she said Wednesday. “Was standing up and doing the ethical, legal and moral whistleblowing the right thing? Yes. Would I do it again? My moral and legal compass would not allow any different course of action.”
Continue Reading National security whistleblowers pay a price for doing the right thing

Every journalist who has ever worked with a whistleblower knows these are fraught relationships. The journalist wants the story. The whistleblower wants justice. Or, maybe revenge. Whistleblowers can be heroic, brilliant, paranoid or deceptive. Journalists can push for too hard for information that may not be in the interest of the whistleblower to share. Or, somebody makes a misstep and the whistleblower is exposed.

Still, the stories they produce are sometimes the best way to right a wrong. So, the NWC was happy to produce a list of tips for journalists working with whistleblowers. We also contributed to a compilation put together by the Journalist’s Resource, a Harvard project that aims to connect reporters with reliable sources of information.

For more on this topic, check out the upcoming Double Exposure film festival and symposium. A session on whistleblowing features Theranos whistleblower Erika Cheung.

The stakes are rising for whistleblowers across the globe. In the United States, whistleblowers are facing prosecution under the Espionage Act like never before, a charge that carries a potential life sentence for speaking up to expose wrongdoing. Elsewhere, whistleblowers face financial and professional ruin, smear campaigns and–in some countries–targeted assassination. What does this mean for the watchdogs in print and film?
Continue Reading The journalist and the whistleblower

Sen. Chuck Grassley spoke out in support protecting the IC whistleblower on Tuesday. No surprise here. Below find his most recent remarks for National Whistleblower Day.

From Politico

The most senior GOP senator has fashioned a career on protecting whistleblowers during presidencies of both parties. And in the middle of one of the most tempestuous political storms in two decades, the seventh-term Iowan is sticking to his position even if it’s at odds with the president himself…

Last week, a number of Republicans mounted attacks on the whistleblower as a secondhand source with no direct knowledge of the inner workings of the administration.

“He’s not really a whistleblower, so it’s really more hearsay,” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said Friday.

Grassley said “the distinctions being drawn between first and secondhand knowledge aren’t legal ones.” He did not mention Trump or his attacks on the whistleblower specifically in his statement, instead asserting that “no one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts.”

Here’s Grassley’s full statement. 


Continue Reading Grassley speaks out in defense of whistleblower. No surprise here.